Francis Paul Prucha

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Francis Paul Prucha
Born January 4, 1921
River Falls, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Occupation Priest, Professor, Historian
Religion Roman Catholic (Society of Jesus)

Francis Paul Prucha (born January 4, 1921) is an American Jesuit, historian, and professor emeritus of history at Marquette University.[1] His work The Great Father was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, and is regarded as a classic among professional historians.


Prucha was born on January 4, 1921, in River Falls, Wisconsin, the first son to Edward J. and Katharine Prucha and the older brother of John J. Prucha. He graduated from River Falls High School at the age of 16 in 1937 as Paul Prucha and was then educated at Wisconsin State Teachers College, at River Falls, which awarded him a Bachelors of Science degree in 1941. After a year and a half of high school teaching and then three and a half years of service in the United States Army Air Force, he enrolled in the University of Minnesota and received an M.A. degree in 1947. Harvard University awarded him a Ph.D. degree in history in 1950 under the direction of Frederick Merk.[2] His dissertation, a study of the role of the peacetime army in the settlement process, was published in 1953 as Broadax and Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army in the Development of the Northwest, 1815-1860.[3]

Prucha joined the Society of Jesus in 1950 and was ordained in 1957 after studying at Saint Louis University and Saint Mary's College in St. Marys, Kansas. Three years later he began teaching at Marquette and is remembered by generations of alumni as a model of the teacher-scholar. Since 1960 he has been on the history faculty at Marquette University. He has served as visiting professor at the University of Oklahoma and at Harvard and was the Gasson Professor at Boston College.[3] When the editor of Marquette Magazine recently asked readers to write about their greatest teachers, Father Prucha was identified among a group of classroom legends."Of all the teachers I've had," wrote Richard Hryniewicki (A&S '61, MA '63), "Father Prucha did the most to instill a love of learning, a quest for knowledge, and practicing work ethic."[4]

In the late 1960s, while studying under a Guggeheim Fellowship, Prucha began work on a comprehensive history of U.S. Indian policy. His research culminated with the two-volume The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. The book was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in history in 1985 and is regarded as a classic among professional historians.[5] The Great Father was awarded the Billington Prize by the Organization of American Historians in 1985. The recipient of six honorary degrees, Prucha was awarded his emeritus appointment in 1988.

Father Prucha is also the author or editor of 25 other books of numerous articles, and scores of book reviews. He is known internationally for his expertise on the American West and United States policy towards Native Americans. Prucha also helped to establish Marquette’s rich research collections documenting Catholicism among Native Americans. As a tribute to Prucha, Marquette University's Archives and Special Collection's reading room in its newly constructed Raynor Library was named in his honor.[6] Father Prucha was also inducted into the Milwaukee Central Library’s Wisconsin Writers Wall of Fame.[7]

Prucha currently resides in the Jesuit Residence on Marquette University's campus.

Honorary Degrees[edit]


Archival collections[edit]

Prucha was instrumental in acquiring for Marquette University the records of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions. There is also a collection that relates purely to Prucha and his work. The archival collections of Francis Paul Prucha includes his correspondence, books (1950–2002), articles, book reviews (1942–2002), public talks and lectures (1956–1998), courses taught (1952–1987), awards and honors (1971–2003), professional activities, research fellowships and grants (1954–2003), personal papers (1927–1993), and research materials (1955–2003).[8]


  1. ^ University, Marquette. Faculty Activities Report. Faculty Report, Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 2002.
  2. ^ Bureau, Marquette University News. University Press Release. Press Release, Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University, 1960.
  3. ^ a b "Western History Association Prize Recipient, 1987: Francis Paul Prucha" in The Western Historical Quarterly 19:2 (May, 1988), 133-140.
  4. ^ a b McInerny, Paul M. "Historical Base for Indian Policy." Marquette Magazine, Spring 1988: 5-6.
  5. ^ The Pulitzer Prizes | Finalists
  6. ^ News - Archives - Marquette University
  7. ^ Jesuit News. "Fr. Prucha named to Wade Chair." National Jesuit News, June 1990: 1.
  8. ^ History Department, Francis Paul Prucha, S.J. Papers - Archives - Marquette University

See also[edit]